Energy Multiplier Module (EM²)


General Atomics is developing the Energy Multiplier Module, or EM2, a small, modular, nuclear reactor that addresses one of the most challenging problems associated with nuclear energy: what to do with nuclear waste.

Spent fuel rods from conventional nuclear reactors are put into storage and considered to be nuclear waste by the nuclear industry and the general public.

This is a misconception.

Nuclear waste is a valuable, clean energy resource.

EM2 exploits this resource in order to produce energy, and to minimize proliferation risks.

With the EM2, General Atomics is making an investment in a transformational technology that could change the game for nuclear energy and create a new industry, attracting innovative minds to a new nuclear enterprise with a long-term future.

Compared to advanced light water reactors, EM2 reduces initial capital investment and power costs by 30 percent. It does this by:

Data source: MIT 2009 Cost Update; EM2 Model Estimate. All power generation costs evaluated for a 30-year levelization period.

Reduced waste
EM2 core can operate using a variety of nuclear fuel leading to better utilization of resources and reduction in spent fuel disposal costs.

Efficient manufacturing
EM2 will achieve cost reduction through factory fabrication of major equipment and construction modules in less time and with reduced waste streams, building multiple sequential units at a single site as driven by demand and site-to-site replication of a standard design.

Reduced number of components
Direct-cycle power conversion system replaces large, steam generators, steam-turbine halls, condensers, air-ejectors, pumps, feedwater heaters and feedwater chemistry control. A long-core life eliminates the need for onsite core refueling and fuel-handling equipment, unlike the 18 months required for conventional light water reactors. These design features significantly reduce the plant capital and maintenance costs. 

High-thermal efficiency and Site flexibility
EM2 employs a direct Brayton-cycle, power-conversion system, which boosts plant efficiency to approximately 50 percent, and the use of dry-cooling technology enables site flexibility.

EM2 turns nuclear waste into a valuable resource.

The nuclear industry is currently using only about 0.5 percent of the available energy from mined uranium - the rest accumulates in large stores of depleted uranium and used nuclear fuel. These materials are considered to be nuclear waste, by the nuclear industry and the general public.

The amount of depleted uranium and used nuclear fuel in U.S. inventories is equivalent to nine trillion barrels of oil - four times more than the known reserves.

EM2 exploits this resource in order to produce energy, and in the process reduces the nuclear waste inventory and reduces the proliferation risks.

EM2 can utilize used nuclear fuel to reduce "spent fuel" inventories to fission products over time. Storage requirements for these materials can be reduced to hundreds of years compared to million-year repositories required for current "spent fuel" inventories.

The EM2 core can operate with a variety of nuclear fuels, including:

• enriched uranium
• weapons grade plutonium
• depleted uranium

• thorium
• used nuclear fuel
• its own discharge

EM2 reduces the risk of weapons material proliferation through enhanced fuel utilization, underground siting, and a closed-fuel cycle. A large-scale deployment of EM2 is expected to reduce the long-term need for uranium enrichment and eliminate conventional nuclear reprocessing.

Conventional light water reactors require refueling every 18 months. EM2's 30-year fuel cycle minimizes the need for fueling handling and reduces the proliferation concerns associated with refueling.

EM2 can dramatically reduce the need for foreign energy imports.

As the demand for hybrid and electric-powered cars and power systems increases, so does the demand for electrical power generation. A large-scale deployment of EM2s can safely support this demand and dramatically reduce the need for foreign energy imports.

At the end of its 30-year life cycle, the EM2 has substantial amounts of valuable fissile material remaining in its core. This material is reused as the starter for a second generation of EM2s, without uranium enrichment and conventional reprocessing. There is no separation of individual heavy metals required.

With its high operating temperature, EM2 can provide process heat for production of petrochemical, bio and hydrogen fuel products. To avoid overheating, the reactor has been designed to automatically shut down using the natural laws of physics.

EM2 can help rebuild the U.S. nuclear
energy workforce.

EM2 represents a significant complement to the current U.S. energy portfolio. Building multiple sequential units at a single site will be driven by demand. A large-scale deployment of EM2 technology can contribute to strengthening the U.S. economy.

It is transformational technology that can create a new industry, attracting eager and innovative minds to a new nuclear enterprise with a long-term future.

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